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Kent Conrad Warns Pentagon of Further Budget Cuts

March 2, 2012

Congress is warning U.S. military leaders they can expect further large-scale reductions in military spending in the coming years, as Washington deals with record levels of government debt.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said Tuesday that the Pentagon will likely have to go beyond the currently proposed $487 billion in cuts in defense spending over the next decade.

“Given the fiscal crisis that we confront, we’re going to have to find more savings in the core defense budget. We can’t rely solely on declining war costs for savings, and we need to ensure that every dollar going to defense is essential for promoting the country’s national security.

In what was at times an emotional exchange, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Conrad that any further reduction in defense spending would affect the U.S. military’s ability to respond to future threats.

“Make no mistake, there is no way I can reduce the defense budget by half a trillion dollars and not have an impact on all 50 states. That’s a reality. In addition to that, I can’t reduce the budget by half a trillion dollars and, frankly, not increase risks.”

The Obama administration is requesting $525 billion for the 2013 defense budget. That is $6 billion less than the request for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30.

However, additional automatic cuts, totaling more than $500 billion, may be on the horizon unless Congress can agree to additional spending reductions. Panetta and other defense officials warned that those cuts would be devastating to the U.S. military.

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